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meeting for the meeting

October 3, 2011

I have a lot of scientific autonomy and I’ve really both really struggled with and really enjoyed the process of bringing physics and biology together.  For the most part, my PI’s practice benign neglect.  I keep both in the loop individually, with specially tailored presentations.  Occasionally, however, they decide that a joint meeting is necessary.  The first few times this happened, I thought things were awesome!  Both of these people are amazingly brilliant scientists and hold each other with high regard for their areas of expertise.  Both are well-read, well-published and have visionary ideas about where their fields can go, should go, might be able to go…  They are even interested in different aspects of some of the same problems.  These meetings should be awesome.  And they are; joint-meetings are a rock-star studded science party.  The problem is the science-hangover.

I’ve drunk both flavors of kool-aid, understand where each of them is coming from, can spot and indeed can anticipate an oversell and have a pretty good feel for how awesome something (that may seem incremental or unimportant to someone outfield) would be.  Mitigating the hangover, (manifest as disappointment when something that is close to impossible is not done, confusion as to why you’re still stuck on something that should be trivial, or worse, mutually-exclusive requests) requires a quite a bit of prep work, involving at least two pre-meetings with each of the PI’s.  At these meetings, in addition to refreshing them on what I’ve been up to and my near and far term goals, I do my best to provide the background knowledge that the other PI is going to assume (unicorns are badass, but the field is really moving towards pegasus-unicorns, which are actually more badass because they can fly!).  I also state where the oversells may come from (there was a report in PNAS last month about unicorn charms, but so far they are custom made by dwarves in chamonix who happen to be our direct competitors AND they only work when held by griffins).  Meeting for the meeting is a lot of work and definately attenuates the science-high from the joint-meeting, but it also nearly eliminates the science-hangover, which is in everyone’s best interest, especially mine.

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